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LCQ8: East Wing Forecourt of CGO

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Chi-chuen and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, in the Legislative Council today (March 16):


     In July 2014, on grounds of augmenting the overall defence capability of the Central Government Offices (CGO) at Tamar and enhancing the security facilities at the East Wing, the Government closed off CGO's East Wing Forecourt, which is commonly known as "the civic square" (the square). The Government re-opened the square on September 10 upon completion of the works to erect a perimeter fence around the square. However, from September 22 onwards, it implemented access control measures under which only Legislative Council (LegCo) Members and personnel holding valid staff identity cards/media permits issued by CGO or LegCo were allowed to have access to the square. Since September 26, the Government has once again closed off the square and denied all visitors' entry into the square. This measure of denying entry into the square has been in force for nearly one and a half years. In reply to a question raised by a Member of this Council in October 2014, the Chief Secretary for Administration stated that the aforesaid access control measure was only temporary, and the Administration Wing (AW) would take into account the actual circumstances and continue to conduct risk assessment to consider when the square might be re-opened. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that prior to the closure of the square, members of the public might apply to AW for holding public meetings or demonstrations at the square on specified days and at specified hours, of the respective numbers of applications received, approved and rejected by AW since the commissioning of the square, as well as AW's criteria for vetting and approving such applications and reasons for rejecting some of the applications;

(2) of the details of the security arrangements implemented by the Government since last year in respect of the management of the square, and set out in a table (i) the daily average number of security personnel stationing at the square and (ii) the related monthly payroll expenses, since the closure of the square on September 26, 2014; the justifications for arranging security personnel to station at the square for a prolonged period of time;

(3) of the criteria adopted by AW (i) for conducting the security risk assessment in respect of the square and (ii) for deciding whether or not to continue implementing the measure of denying entry into the square; the number of such assessments conducted by AW since the closure of the square;

(4) of the current justifications for the continued implementation of the measure of denying entry to the square; whether it has drawn up a timetable for the re-opening of the square; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) whether it has assessed (i) the impacts on and the inconvenience caused to members of the public by, and (ii) if the public have been deprived of their freedom of holding meetings and demonstrations at the square due to, the prolonged implementation of the measure of denying entry into the square?



     The Central Government Offices (CGO), including the East Wing Forecourt (the Forecourt), is government property held by the Administration Wing. The Forecourt is primarily used as a vehicular access for the CGO and a pick up/drop off point for passengers, as well as a passageway for visitors and staff members of the CGO and the Legislative Council (LegCo) Complex. The Forecourt is neither a public place nor a designated public open space. It is incorrect to describe the Forecourt as "the civic square" in the question. The Director of Administration, being the land allocatee and lawful occupier, has the legal right and responsibility to exercise appropriate control and restriction on the use of the Forecourt, having regard to the security and actual needs.

     In end-September 2014, some protestors forced their way into the Forecourt, and thereafter a large-scale Occupy Movement persisted in the vicinity of the CGO. For security reasons, the Government has to close the Forecourt temporarily.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(1) Since the commissioning of the new CGO at Tamar, as far as the venue permits, the Government has made available the Forecourt to the public for holding public meetings/processions during specified hours on Sundays and public holidays, subject to the prior approval of the Director of Administration. Upon receipt of applications for such public order events, the Administration Wing will process them on a first-come-first-served basis and consult the Police on the potential threat of these activities to public order and safety.

     Since the Forecourt was made available for public use on application in October 2011, as at March 1 this year, the Administration Wing has received a total of 238 applications, of which 144 were approved (including 12 approved applications which were subsequently revoked as the Forecourt was not available for public use due to security reasons). There were 83 unsuccessful applications, and the reasons for rejection were primarily venue-related. For instance, some applicants had requested to hold public meetings during working days when the Forecourt was not open for public order events; the time slot under application had been allocated to another successful applicant; and the venue was closed temporarily, etc. The remaining 11 applications required no further action as they were withdrawn by the applicants.

(2) The security service for the CGO and Chief Executive's Office (CE's Office) is currently outsourced to a service contractor, who deploys security guards to man various security posts according to the requirements specified in the contract. Should the security risk on the periphery of the CGO become heightened, the Government will deploy additional security personnel as needed to strengthen the security of office buildings and the surrounding facilities, including the Forecourt. While the Forecourt is temporarily closed, security guards are still required to perform such duties as general patrol, manning entrance/exit and handling emergencies, etc. Nevertheless, the number of security guards stationed at the Forecourt has been reduced. As the expenditure on security service for the CGO and CE's Office is consolidated in accordance with the contract, there is no breakdown of relevant expenditure on individual security posts. At the moment, the overall security service expenditure of the CGO and CE's Office is about $3.5 million per month, representing a drop of about 13 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year.

(3) and (4) As the CGO and CE's Office are critical government facilities, the Government has to take appropriate security measures to ensure normal operation of the office buildings and the surrounding facilities. From time to time, the Government has kept under review these security measures including the use of the Forecourt, security arrangement for the entrances/exits of the CGO, and the overall manpower requirement of security guards and their deployment.

     After the end of the Occupy Movement in end 2014, a number of protestors put up tents and other articles in the vicinity of Tim Mei Avenue occupying the area for a prolonged period. Despite the Government's law enforcement action to clear the tents and articles last June, a series of incidents took place thereafter including the explosion of a rubbish bin in the demonstration area of the LegCo, and the arrest of a person suspected of possessing smoke-producing material fit for unlawful purposes around Admiralty. Up to now, there are people who still sleep and demonstrate continuously outside the CGO, setting up tents from time to time. In view of the relatively high security risk persistently faced by the CGO, the Forecourt still needs to be closed temporarily. The Government will continue to monitor the situation and keep under review the arrangements for the Forecourt in due course.

(5) In view of the temporary closure of the Forecourt, the Administration Wing has introduced appropriate measures to make available the staff entrance on the second floor of the CGO for use by visitors. So far the operational arrangements have been running smoothly. For visitors to the LegCo, they may gain access to the LegCo Complex via the pedestrian pavement along Tim Mei Avenue or through Tamar Park. Furthermore, the extension of the CITIC Tower footbridge to the LegCo Complex has been completed and the extended footbridge has been opened for public use since this late February, providing a direct, separate and covered access route from Admiralty to the LegCo Complex.

     The Government respects the public's freedom of assembly, procession and demonstration. While the Forecourt is still closed temporarily, a section of the pedestrian pavement on Tim Mei Avenue outside the Forecourt has all along been designated as a public activities area. Members of the public may hold public meetings or submit petition letters to the Government in that area without the need for seeking prior approval of the Administration Wing, though such activities are subject to the relevant provisions under the Public Order Ordinance governing the holding of public meetings/processions. If the congregation is excessively large, the Police will, taking into account the actual situation, implement corresponding crowd management measures and consider, among other things, temporarily opening the traffic lanes on Tim Mei Avenue for public meeting purposes. Moreover, members of the public may also apply to relevant departments for holding public activities at the amphitheatre in Tamar Park or the Central and Western District Promenade (Central Section) adjacent to the CGO.

Ends/Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:01


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